What Percent?

At our PIR day last Friday the principal asked us a question:  What is our percentage goal for graduation rate for the upcoming year?  Our current graduation rate (for students entering the 9th grade) is 86%, which, comparatively, is nothing to sneeze at.  NCLB says the goal is 100%.  We know that’s not realistic.  What is a realistic goal for next year?  87%?  90%?  Or should we be idealists and say that the goal is actually 100%?

This was a difficult question for the staff.  It gets straight to the heart of what we believe as teachers.  We all value children and want to do right by them.  But this question gets right to your belief about how much impact the students themselves have on this process, as well as a host of other value-laden questions.

I found myself back in the frame of mind that what we do and what we provide in terms of education is not appropriate for every kid.  See the Fish post here.  We are a college prep institution.  Everything we do tells kids that what we value is that they get a college degree.  By golly, we’re even administering the ACT (a college entrance exam) to every junior at PHS this year.  We don’t offer a whole lot to kids who are good with their hands or talented musicians (props to the teachers who do teach these subjects in our school, you do a great job, but your hands are tied).   We value students who are good at English/Language Arts, Math and Science.  See what Sir Ken Robinson says about how schools treat childrens’ talents here.

I have felt over the past few years that more and more of my job entails shaving the square corners off kids so they fit in the round holes.   I am not happy with this transition, but I am unsure how to change it.

So if our goal is to force more kids through the college prep program that is Polson High School then I’m not really on board.  I think 86% is probably too high.  We’re forcing too many kids to be what they’re not in order to please the grownups.

But if our goal is to broaden the definition of “success” of students to incorporate more than being successful at our college prep program, then I’m all in.  If our goal is to have a differentiated diplomas or different “academies” that allows students to emphasize vocational skills, or performance arts, or culinary arts, or health sciences, or whatever floats their boat, then I’m all in.

Let’s go for 100%.